Chemo Side Effects: Upset Stomach and Muscle Pain
Last updated: September 2023
Since I last wrote on the side effects of chemotherapy, I’ve had chemo twice. For almost the last two years I’ve been on Enhertu. I think it’s my 5th (or is it 6th?) chemo cocktail. I guess Enhertu is not technically a chemotherapy, but in my mind and from experience, it still feels like one.
Thankfully, the side effects from this drug are not as bad as some of the other chemos I’ve done. But I still get hit with something every time I do it, which is every three weeks. We can always tell a couple of days later when I will start feeling crummy because my cheeks start to turn red. My husband, Joel, says my cheeks are like the canary in the coal mine.
I want to talk about one really sucky side effect I’ve experienced with every chemo. This is probably the one side effect that hits me the most and the hardest—even more than nausea. I’ll then share a little about muscle and joint pain, which I get too!
This is one I deal with a lot. Some chemos have had little effect on my stomach, and others, like the one I'm on now, cause acid reflux, pain, and cramping. But I've also been on chemo now for years so, go figure.
It makes sense since stomach lining cells tend to grow faster than normal cells, and fast-growing cells are what chemo targets best. So often, our poor stomachs end up as civilian casualties in the war.
I've tried and been on a pharmacy's worth of medications over the years, often as attempts to curve negative side effects from the chemo! Some of those meds, however, can mess with my stomach too. It's important to keep your oncologist updated on these types of issues. They can often help by eliminating, adding, or changing a dose of something.
Things that help me with an upset stomach
- I take an anti-acid pill in the morning and at night (Prilosec). I get these prescribed by my oncologist, and thankfully, insurance covers them.
- Caffeine can cause problems, so I try to limit that and try to drink water mostly. But I do still have my daily coffee.
- I love Jamba Juice. When my stomach is empty or sour, but I don’t feel hungry, but I know I need to eat, I can always get one of these down. The Strawberry Surf Rider is my fav. These comfort my stomach and I always add a protein shot and vitamins.
- I love soup and bread from Panera.
- I avoid heavy, fatty foods. Okay, I try too!
- My husband turned me on to Pepto Bismol tablets.
- Simple food helps like plain yogurt, a parfait, rice, oatmeal, ramen noodles, original Sun Chips, cereal, or a can of corn.
- My husband says laying on his stomach helps him but that doesn't work for me. But it might help you!
Muscle or joint pain
Chemo and certain chemotherapy medications can cause myalgias and joint pain. This is not something I deal with a lot, but sometimes I experience bone pain, soreness, and body cramps. I had cancer in my hip bone and had surgery to remove it. As a result, I get hip and back pain.
Things that help me with muscle/joint pain
- If things hurt badly, I'll take a couple of Tylenol or a prescribed opioid I have for breakthrough pain. But I never take them together or mix them.
- At times, I use a heating pad under my back. This helps.
- Not overdoing stuff and just laying down for a while.
- And of course, staying hydrated.
As I did with my previous article about ugly chemo side effects, I’d love to hear from you, and I hope to get a conversation started in this forum.
As related to upset stomachs or achy muscles and joints, in the comments, please share some of the remedies or secrets you use to help alleviate the discomfort so we can all learn from each other.
Have you been successful in getting financial assistance to help with your medical costs?